Thursday, April 2, 2009

Voice Mail, a thing of the past?

All this talk about virtual offices, outsourcing, second lives, and twitter got me thinking about the instant-gratification world in which we live. Though we have yet to discuss cell phone technology in the class, I think it is especially relevant as we discuss how technology can impact our daily lives. I started thinking about my own life and how I, too, have become impatient enough even to check voice mails when they're left on my phone. I often simply call or text the person back and get straight to the point. A friend of mine even called me today, left a voice message, then realized who she was dealing with and texted me the same information she left in her voice message. What did I do? Text her back.

A recent New York Times article echoed my sentiments. We've become, evidently, "voice mail phobic," and the burden of pressing the "playback button" and actually enter a code often ties up our hands. When we finally get to the message it's usually filled with a "Hey Emily, It's (insert name here), give me a call back. Thanks!" Beep! Now, is that really worth my 1.5-2 minutes spent to reach a goal of voice mail boringdom?

According to Yen Cheong, a book publicist in New York, it takes 7-10 steps to check a voice mail message versus the 0-3 for an email. Others in the article note voice mails are "just totally an ineffective communication method, almost ancient now." Other research shows that people take longer to reply to voice messages than other types of communication. Verizon reports that over 30% of voice messages are left unlistened to for 3 days or longer. This is opposed to the nearly 91% of people under 30 who respond to text messages within an hour. People are also 4 times more likely to respond to texts than to voice messages within minutes.

Cell phone companies are starting to cater to the dying of voicemails. The Visual Voicemail, which comes standard on iPhone and others like it, displays a message in a visual in box and allows users to listen to messages one by one and in any order. PhoneTag converts messages into typed texts and automatically delivers them to phones or email inboxes. PhoneTag founder James Siminoff states "Voice mails are totally trapped info." Google even plans to introduce "Google Voice" which will centralize all messages from the phones that people own (mobile, home, office).

Regardless of new technology available, I think this growing trend is indicative of a generational gap. Older folks talk and talk (proof: the 4 minute long message my mother just left me...) while the younger people text and email. Others remark "there is something nice about hearing people's voice." I agree, but there's also something nice in not wasting time.

So my questions are thus:
How do you feel about this? Do you still value the voice mail? Do you prefer to text?
What are the greater implications in our lives... is it affecting the way we communicate with our loved ones and friends?
Is it due to a generational barrier or simply those who are more tech savvy?

Finally, here's a link to the article. Enjoy!


  1. Honestly, I still value voice mail. As much as I enjoy the convenience and expediency of texting, a voice mail is infinitely more personal and nuanced. Text messages suffer a problem similar to that of email in that they can make the sender seem cold/angry/apathetic when they aren't. It's just sometimes harder to tell the mood of a text message. I'm not so busy that I can't spare a couple of minutes to listen to a voice mail that someone I care about has left for me. I also don't think it's a question of being tech savvy because both my family and I would fall under that category but we tend to leave voice messages just the same. Then again, I'm a people person and like talking, as evident by these ramble-y posts I tend to make, but I understand many others do not feel the same way about voice messages. All the same, I think this rather widespread impatience with even something as little as devoting a few minutes of time to hear what a loved one has to say is rather saddening.

  2. I actually don't listen to my voicemails anymore. I find them annoying and useless. The only time I check them is when i get a phone call from a number that I don't know and see that they left a voicemail. But even then it takes me a while because I have so many other voicemails that I have to get through in order to listen to that particular one. I feel that is is outdated, especially since we already know who is calling most of the time just by names stored in the phone. Half the time I do check my voicemail, it says "Hey Shanna, its me..." like what do you mean "its me?" - who is me?? I also never leave voicemails, because i find them annoying.

    I text more than I talk on the phone. I hate being stuck on the phone with people. If i have more than a few things to say, i will call, but if i only have 1-2 things to say/ask, i just text it.

    voicemails annoy me.

  3. I would have to say that I much rather recieve a text telling me a message then a voicemail because of the amount of time it takes to check a voicemail. But it does depend on the circumstances without a doubt. I get frustrated when someone calls me and then we sit in silence. Like there must have been a reason for the call, right?! I do enjoy talking on the phone but I feel like its the same group of people all the time.

  4. Well, obviously, this is a growing occurrence/thought in our daily lives. Personally, I have mixed views about voicemail and how it is used. When I make personal calls to my friends I never leave a message, and I expect/want the same thing when friends call me. I think of it like this: I someone (or I) take the time to call you and you can see the missed call on your phone, then it must be somewhat important/meaningful and I will callback. In informal communication such as this with our friends I think the text/callback is where we are headed. Like you said, it's pretty stupid to leave a message, "Hey ____, call me back." I mean, my girlfriend and I don't even leave messages, b/c (1) we know each other never check the messages and (2) it's just easier knowing that the other just wanted to "chat" anyways.

    I do think voicemail is important in more formal occasions. Especially when trying to plan events when you're working with multiple business. While e-mail may be the best communication tool to use, a voicemail in these situations is informative and far more personal than a written message on the PC. For this reason I don't think voicemails will become worthless, because there are always instances where they can be very informative (or hilarious with the late night drunk dials).

  5. I'm actually the person that won't call you back unless you give me a reason to. If you don't leave a voicemail well then you don't get a call. Regardless, I understand where you are coming from. Texting has become the quickest way to get to the point when communicating. I do agree with Austin as far as voicemail being appropriate for formal occasions. For such cases, voicemail still has a purpose, and therefore I don't see it being phased out anytime soon. Finding a middle ground for both texters and voicemail users through the software discussed that converts voicemail to text may be what's to come, but voicemail I'm sure will always be an option.

  6. Currently, my parents are not very good at texting. Their eyesight is failing them and the small screens and buttons of their cell phones don't help either. So they leave me voicemail. Personally, I enjoy listening to these voice messages; my parents are sweet; but getting to my voicemail and navigating the voice menu that Cingular (AT&T)utilizes sucks a big one.

    Basically, I expect my friends/coworkers to text me, not leave a voicemail, if they can't get me on the phone. They know that if I'm in class, I can read and even respond to a text, but can't really listen to a voice message. Not to mention the extra time it takes to find and listen to their message then try to call them back. I don't leave voicemail either. I don't wanna have to listen to the voicemail greeting messages (which are really just a pain sometimes when you just need to ask "where you at?").

    And I do think the way we are comfortable communicating with our friends and family has evolved. Our generation grew up with the email, the instant message, and the text message. We're quite skilled at making our point and even working in nuances into our text communications. Ultimately, I mildly disagree that we lose much by using text over voice since as a generation, we've learned the intricacies of text/IM communication (i.e. the overuse of "LOL" :P).

  7. I still value the voicemail somewhat. When you get a voice message, you can learn alot more about what the person is trying to say or how they are feeling. Texts, on the other, are very ambiguous.
    There does seem to be a generational barrier with texting. My mom can never figure out how to do it correctly and the messages that she sends often do not make sense. My grandparents are worse in that they don't even know how to send one.

  8. Honestly, I don’t listen to my voicemail unless I have to. The only people who leave me voicemail messages are my parents and I know what they want so there is no point in listening to it. I actually get frustrated when someone who I am not expecting to leaves me a voicemail message because I usually have somewhere between 6-9 messages sitting in the box that I have to listen to before I get to hear that ‘important’ message. I think texting is definitely something that the more tech savvy do. I text my father all the time and he always calls me back even if I tell him not to because I am busy, it doesn’t matter he won’t text me. As for text messages, I do like how they are quick and you can essentially have a conversation with a person through text. It is quite handy when you are doing other things. Actually, I get kind of annoyed when I text people and they don’t respond back within 5 minutes. It sounds ridiculous but I was overseas in Asia and people were so quick with responding that I just came to expect that and well that is most definitely not the case here. Though I am all for texting, when I do get a voicemail that is a nice or funny voicemail, I keep it for a while because it is really nice to hear it. For instance I have a voicemail from someone that they left on Christmas that is just too cute to delete.

  9. The thing about voice mails is that everyone has a different policy. Some friends of mine don't listen to their voice mails at all. Some, however, say they'll only call me back if they get a voice mail, and won't respond if they just see a missed call. I guess these people figure if it's important enough you'll call back, but how many times do you call someone before it just gets annoying?

    What I find frustrating about texts is that I feel they often limit what I can say. No one wants to read a 5 sentence text and often times what I need to communicate to someone can be complicated. But because texting is so much easier for people to respond to, do I risk not being heard at all if I leave a voice mail? It really is a social conundrum.

    What is interesting though is that I feel voice mails left on non-portable phones, especially at offices, are still listened to. I wonder what the difference is between our cell phone tendencies and our work tendencies. Perhaps it's because the work force is still older, they're used to voice mails. But I think we feel a greater obligation to get back to people when it's our job, and less when it's just our own personal lives.

  10. Voicemail. WOW! I can honestly say that I barely listen them. The majority of the time, people who leave them for me always call me back and ask if I got it and if not, they always repeat themselves. My phone makes it so easy to use voicemail where I dont even have to use my minutes and I still dont see the need for it. I would rather someone text me. The only time I feel obligated to check it is when it is from a potential/current employer or my family in case it is an emergency.

  11. I found a few interesting start up companies currently offering some cool technology to solve the voice mail problems. Company like GOTVOICE can automatically convert the voice mail to text message, so people can read it on the phone without going through the complicated process. Also, Evoice will convert voice mail to text and send as an email with the voice mail audio files as an attachment. Here is the company website

  12. I personally find voicemails to be a huge inconvenience. I rarely check them and my inbox usually gets up to 6 or 7 before I waste time listening to them.

    I say waste time because I feel like the messages last about 10 times longer than they need to. All this small talk for just one point. I don't even leave messages, I just assume people will see the missed call and then call me back.

    I don't really see the problem in it. People should embrace new technologies rather than shy away from them.

  13. I definitely prefer voicemails over text messages. I feel that today’s generation is moving further away from direct human interaction. Sometimes when I text I am concerned that my sense of humor will not be understood correctly. When I receive a voicemail my phone allows me to listen to it automatically just by pressing one button and listening, and then I can simply call the person back. When I receive a text, I usually call the person back because I feel that it is easier to talk to someone rather than type a conversation. I would rather hear someone talk to me than have to read a text that could be interpreted incorrectly. I feel that some technologies are pushing us away from one on one human contact and I do not think that is beneficial to our society.

  14. I never listen to my voicemails anymore either. If I see someone has called me I call them back instead of listening to my voicemail. Most of the time if I have a missed call then someone will text me and tell me to call them back or let me know why they called. Unless it is somone I don't know who has a specific reason for calling me - for instance someone reminding me of an appointment- then no one leaves me a voicemail. I think that we are just to impatient to sit and listen to a voicemail we just want to immediately call the person back instead. Many of times I have returned a call and the person ask if I've listened to their voicemail and every time I have to tell them no.

  15. I as well never listen to voicemails nor do I leave them. The only time I can say I check my voicemail is when I see I have a missed call from an unknown number or perhaps a future employer. My mother will ask if I got her message and I always say "no, I just called you back." I personally just prefer someone to text me unless its an emergency and they need to speak to me on the phone. Now that my parents are coming into the "new age" in a sense we text each other all the time. Perhaps voicemail is alittle outdated now! I thank Cingular for my unlimited text message plan!

  16. I think that having the option of voicemail is necessary. Although I prefer using email and texts for when some has a request or needs me to respond quickly, voicemail is perfect for the rambling story-telling message, which is not necessary to return. As long as it's not time-sensitive and is of little importance, voicemail is the ideal way to communicate the message since it is more personable.

    With other forms of verbal communication becoming popular, like Skype, I believe that voicemail will soon become outdated altogether. With our generation so dependent on immediate action, voicemail just takes too long. Not only does it take awhile to listen to a new message (by the time the prerecorded lady is done talking), it seems like it takes just as long to leave a voicemail for someone after the "At the tone, please record...." All in all, texts and emails is more efficient, and that's what people nowadays focus on more.

  17. I think this idea of the dying voice-mail is so interesting because it hits so close to home with me. I cannot count the number of times I've told people to not leave me a voice-mail and that I would just call them back when I saw their missed call. I actually thought I was the most impatient person in the world for being way to impatient to check my voice-mails. Honestly, to explain how much I hate having to check voice-mail, I used to make my voice-mail greeting ridiculously long and taxing to listen to, so that only people with really important messages would wait long enough to actually leave a voice-mail.
    To make a long story short, I think it is outrageous that people are becoming too impatient to even check their voice-mail, but I completely understand and have even become one of these impatient people of modern technological society.

  18. I still value voicemail because it is a lot more professional over text messaging. I am not saying that I do not use text messaging, I actually use text messaging a lot more than voicemail. But when I need to leave a professional message I use voicemail. Text messages is something I use with my friends and family. But when it comes to anything involving people I do not know, like businesses, companies, etc. I use voicemail. I feel that people should avoid not checking their voicemail because important messages could be missed if they do not check them on a regular basis. Basically, text messaging is informal way of leaving messages, while voicemail is a formal way in my opinion.

  19. I find your post exceptionally interesting, as my friends and family knew all too well not to leave me a voicemail, that is, before I upgraded to visual voicemail. In fact, I became so impatient with voicemails to the point that I began paying a friend daily to listen to--and hand write--each message. Visual voicemails are so easy to manage that I actually look forward to receiving them.

    As pathetic as my previous habits sound, I don't consider myself overly impatient and certainly feel no remorse. While our society is entirely too impatient and restless, our intolerance of automated voicemail systems speaks nothing of it. By the standards of anyone, it takes entirely too long to get through the automated process to retrieve a voicemail. I only wish this issue would have existed during the Seinfeld days...